Lately I've been doing a lot of reading about the best way to go about teaching boys - obviously having a boy it is an interest of mine, but I'm also really curious as to how boys learn better using non-traditional/academic methods. Already I am noticing that when I attempt to 'teach' Vinnie something with a book or worksheet he is not interested, but incorporating his interests, using movement and letting him find his own way is having such an amazing effect on his learning. I also read about how boys' fine motor skills are almost a whole year behind their female peers when they start school. Of course knowing this parents and teachers can find ways to work on fine motor skills - but what if, like me, you have a child who absolutely will not be persuaded to pick up a crayon? I had a think about the things Vinnie already loves and how he is already working his motor skills, without me even noticing...
I think scissors are particularly appealing to little hands - they're illicit and destructive which is every toddler's dream right? Vinnie's scissors are always accessible to him, but I have never had any problems. He loves his Cut & Snip Tray - straws and cardboard strips are special snipping favourites!
Again with the destruction theme, tearing is a great finger workout! I tried with tissue paper, but construction paper works best - at first I cut little notches in strips of paper, but now Vinnie is really into shredding things. As with the scissors, I find if you give them things they are allowed to tear and cut rather than outright banning things it saves you from finding shredded books, cut up newspapers and homemade haircuts!
I find that no methods of encouragement or coercion can convince Vinnie to pick up a crayon, but if I set out some felt-pens or Dot Markers he will go wild. Any kind of mark-making is early literacy skills in practise. The Dot Markers are Bingo Dabbers I picked up at the Post Office for cheap!
You guys know we love playdough (read my post on the learning opportunities and benefits here) - building, rolling, squishing, poking, tearing and cutting are all workouts for little fingers, plus I've yet to meet a kid who could resist a big ball of playdough and a free reign!
You might have seen these tongs popping up in a lot of my posts at the moment - Vinnie is really into them and I figure it's a good way to sneak in some covert learning. We use them to pick up magnet letters, cotton reels and beads.
I don't think I ever saw the need for a tub of multicoloured beads, plastic cotton reels or pipecleaners before I had a kid but now they feature in our regular playtimes. The cotton reels are good for smaller kiddos, then you can use smaller and smaller beads for older kids. Pasta tubes and pipecleaners make a good simple option.
Like the felt pens and dot markers - Dry Wipe Pens are a bit of a novelty for little kids. They write smoother and are pretty cheap from stationary shops (you can get drywipe crayons too). We have a drywipe side on our easel which engages other muscles and coordination - you could also use them on the fridge, bathroom or kitchen floor too (just check a tiny spot will wipe off first!)
I first saw this idea over on The Imagination Tree - use the side of the chalk to colour the chalkboard, then a little water and a brush for some fun mark-making, working on pencil grip and control. We end up doing this more than just using the chalk in the usual way!
So there you go friends, hopefully you'll find something to spark even the most reluctant learners! How do you inspire your kiddos when they don't seem interested?
p.s. I hope I don't isolate any readers who have daughters in my wording of this post, - obviously all of these activities are fun for girls too!